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Philip Markoff, Julissa Brisman and Craig Newmark’s Annus Horribilis


Craig Newmark is a nice guy who likes doing nice things for people he likes to call  “the community”. The only problem is that in 2009,  that community is no longer as small and as homogenous as the one Craig engendered in 1995;  the year he launched Craigslist as an e-mail list for friends and acquaintances in San Francisco.  On top of all the growing pains, the horrific killing of Julissa Brisman has taught Craig that it is harder to play the nice guy role when people are  screaming  “bloody murder” (figuratively of course) over intimations of freedom of expression, and Craigslist’s once touted virtues of  “community policing.

(Community policing is Craigslist’s system of screening out objectionable content after the fact through what is called flagging. A post that receives a certain number of flags from users is automatically removed from the website. In the case of the once-embattled Erotic Services section, Craigslist used to rely on so-called  community policing until several state lawmen threatened to sue the pants off of Craig in the wake several crimes that could be linked to his website.)

Julissa Brisman: The end of accomodation. Before her killing, anti-Erotic Services lobbies were chomping at the bit.

Julissa Brisman & the end of accomodation: Before her killing in a Boston Marriott on April 14, 2009,  anti-Erotic Services lobbies were chomping at the bit to get at Craigslist’s collective behind.

In the wake of all Craigslist’s troubles one could argue, and argue convincingly, that the legal saber-rattling by state attorneys general, comes a distant second to the prospect of losing the nice guy/philanthropic mantle Craigslist has earned over its 14 years of existence. There is a method to figuring this out, and it doesn’t fall far from the values of community,  service and doing things in innovative new ways that have been described as bohemian, if not downright “communist.” Consider this if you are an inveterate skeptic: The money Craigslist stands to lose defending nonsensical lawsuits  pales in comparison to the money it has left on the table by not charging for its classifieds in hot metro markets like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles. Now about that “communist” moniker: If it is not a back-handed compliment to the man the world knows as Craig, then we don’t know what is.  But someone needs to tell those fire-breathing Attorneys General.

Under the fumes-fomenting spotlight of the media their  diatribes were nothing but blistering.  The Connecticut Attorney General, George Blumenthal,  accused Craigslist of promoting “pimping and prostitution in plain sight” and lambasted it as a “blatant internet brothel.”  South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster had threatened Craigslist with criminal investigation if the company’s executives had not removed the Erotic Services section by May 15 of 2009. And  Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart, had described Craigslist as the “largest source of prostitution in America” and filed a lawsuit.

Throughout all of this, the political posturing and hypocrisy by South Carolina Attorney General, Henry McMaster, did not go un-noticed.  The selective prosecution of Craigslist when there are other publications that are  publishing way more graphic sexual content, has raised more than the ire of Craigslist. McMaster is treading on thin ice atop a sewer lake without a harness.

Philip Markoff  the de facto end of Craigslist's presumed innocence. The death of Julissa Brisman was unlike the others. Craigslist could not weather the perfect storm it created.

Philip Markoff  and the de facto end of Craigslist’s presumed innocence. The death of Julissa Brisman was unlike the others. Craigslist could not weather the “Andrea Gail”-like  storm it created. The issues run deeper and wider than rhetoric, but that is not the stuff of tabloidry …. or Public relations.

The Julissa Brisman Killing: The Julissa Brisman killing was the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of creating a public relations atmosphere in which Craigslist felt extremely vulnerable, inspite  of being protected by Federal Law CDA Section 230 which holds it not liable for content posted by users.  But the Julissa Brisman killing was different. The seven Attorneys General couldn’t have asked for a better test case, not to mention public relations milieu that would synergize with with their campaign while putting Craig and company on the defensive.  In the wake of the killing, the lawmen did what any good politician would do: They ratcheted up the attack on Craigslist’s  Erotic Services and threatened all kinds of lawsuits in addition to the few that they had filed already.

Craig’s first instincts were to stand his ground, but when arguments about the effectiveness of community policing of the Erotic Services became untenable, he blinked …  Well,  in a manner of speaking. Craigslist C.E.O. Jim Buckmaster experienced a similar change of mind, if not heart.  The Craigslist Erotic Services was (as a result) deactivated starting on May 13, 2009 (05/13/09) with ads that were already posted being allowed to stay up for 7 days before being deleted.  The section has been replaced by the newly constituted “Adult Services” – a less gauche spread along the lines of the adult classifieds in the Yellow Pages or city metro weeklies you see in any major city. The genius of this compromise can turn out to be in its potential for allowing opposing parties to simultaneously claim victory. However CNN quotes Connecticut Attorney General, George Blumenthal as saying that they will be watching Craigslist like a hawk “to make sure prostitution and pornography do not migrate and move elsewhere.”

“We will be monitoring closely to make sure that this measure is more than a name change from ‘erotic’ to ‘adult’ and that the manual blocking is tough and effective to scrub prostitution and pornography,” he said.

“Our continuing investigation will assure that these steps are substance, not just spin, and that Craigslist really shuts down its open online red-light district.”

What this whole drama has proved is that inspite of  legal or legalistic justifications, Craigslist is still vulnerable to being found guilty in the court of public opinion. Playing Mr. Nice Guy comes at a big price.

In The Beginning Craig Newmark Created ….. Things were much simpler when Craig started his little website  in 1995. The community then was a rag-tag collectivity of San Francisco friends, acquaintances and fellow geeks  that he cobbled into a social network through a humble e-mail list.  The list  advertised local events,  shindigs and various forms of entertainment for overworked and under-entertained techies who needed a social lifeline. That was long before the e-mail  list morphed into a burgeoning website plugging anything from computers to companionship.  And that  was about a decade and half before a med student named Philip Markoff would instantly be dubbed the Craigslist Killer,  for allegedly killing an escort he found through the  Boston metro Craigslist. The name stuck like crazy glue while a coterie of lawmen from Massachusetts to South Carolina started circling the San Francisco upstart like famished sharks.

Craigslist’s response to the crisis was as slow and shoddy as George Bush’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina. Someone at H.Q. should have sounded the ship alarm concerning the potential seriousness of socio-legal-cum-P.R. backlash in the wake of the Boston killing.  Fairly or unfairly, the fall-out from the Julissa Brisman death is gonna follow the San Francisco company’s  for a long, long time.

This is a strange dock for the reticent San Franciscan who would rather be battling spammers, seeding community enterprises or traversing the internets as  Craigslist’s ambassador at large.  Jim Buckmaster, may be C.E.O. and  indispensable spokesperson in the current crisis, but Craig Newmark remains the heart and pulse of the organization. He may not be as savvy and smooth at dealing with the media at this juncture, but he is adapting and hewing to his best instincts, which is part of what made Craigslist what it is today.

Vignettes in progress:

A tale of two killings: The Julissa Brisman was not the first time someone had been killed through a connection made on Craigslist. (Google Katherine Ann Olson for a comparative case that raises interesting questions about how the current case is being treated. ) The reading of what went into those transactions and placing of ultimate culpability is what has created the perfect firestorm engulfing Craigslist right now. Be that as it may, tales of Craigslist’s demise are just way too exaggerated. The insidious threat to Craigslist’s heart, mind and soul may lie more with spam and the possible up-ending its free ads platform than in the morality-inflected debate pulsing the realm right now.

Is this the posture & mask of a killer? Philip Markoff in Boston Municipal Court, on April 21, 2009. Shades of Jeffrey Dahmer? Time will tell ....

Is this the posture & mask of a killer? Philip Markoff in Boston Municipal Court, on April 21, 2009. Shades of Jeffrey Dahmer? Time will tell ….

The Phillip Markoff Story (A possibly chilling vignette straight out of a Coen brothers flick): The break in the Julissa Brisman case came hours after police released new security camera photos showing a clean-cut, 6-foot-tall man casually fingering his Blackberry as he non-chalantly walked to and from around the scene of three crime scenes.  Was this sheer coincidence or evidence of murderer in action? Was the casual mien the tell-tale sign of a cold-blooded killer?

The exterior presentation reminded people of another cold-blooded killer from a different generation; Ted Bundy, the serial killer who charmed his way into the confidence of many a young woman. The possibility that Philip Markoff could have been another Ted Bundy in the making is extremely unsettling. Killers who look clean-cut and normal are more unsettling than three-headed monsters.

Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Markoff as preppy med student suits up. The possibility that he was Mr, Hyde in the making is scarier than the stuff of Friday the 13th.

Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? Markoff as preppy med student suits up. The possibility that he was Mr, Hyde in the making is scarier than the stuff of Friday the 13th.

The portrait of Philip Markoff  coming into slow focus is a Rorschach of sorts. What you get depends on who you talk to:

His then fiance, Megan McAllister, first described him as  “beautiful in and out.” The rosy portrayal may have been willful …. as in willful act of a woman in probable denial. She has since backed off her support in tortured press releases through her attorney. The bottom line is that she ended up shelving plans of marrying the young med student.

Some of the few friends Markoff had have described him as smart but geeky and awkward at times. They say he had  a goofy smile and was often the butt of collegial jokes. A female pre-med associate, who fought off  his aggressive sexual advances one drunken evening, describes him as ” very intelligent but definitely lacking in some social skills.” (Was Philip Markoff Leading a Double Life? 48 Hours Mystery)

The 48 Hours special, “Seven Days of Rage: The Craigslist Killer” fleshes out this story further.

Craigslist: A Victim of its own success spiked with  schadenfreude?

The sense that Craigslist is perhaps being singled out for “sober behandlung” is not imaginary (Backpage.com adult entertainment for years mined the same raunchy terrain that CL did.) But that choice may have been  influenced more by Craigslist’s popularity and efficacy than anything else.  In other words Craigslist has probably become a victim of its own success in terms of its high profile and penetration of major metro markets and upending of  the older and more costly media models. Read that newspapers, magazines and weeklies.  The ill-will that Craigslist has created is no doubt creating waves of  schadenfreude, not only within the old media, but sleazy Craigslist wannabes that are chomping at the bit to monetize the figurative crumps that fall from the table of this highly lucrative market.

Be that as it may, the practical indictment of the Craigslist flagging regime in Erotic Services hints at some of the shortcomings users have been carping about in other sections of Craigslist. Will this lead to the throwing out of baby with the bathwater as  more moderated/paid postings take out the freedom and instantaneity of posting that made Craigslist such a hit with users?

Stay tuned. 

copyright© 2009 cyberaxis.wordpress.com

Appendices:

“Craigslist Killer Phillip Markoff Commits Suicide” (ABC News)

Craigslist Killer Gets Arrested – 2 CBS News Interviews    (CBS, Youtube)

Craigslist strikes adult services under pressure (Christopher Leonard, Associated Press)

Craigslist computer and electronic classifies in new york and san francisco under bot spam attacks (Cyberaxis)

Scapegoating Craigslist is not going to solve the problem of underage prostitution (Don Hazen, AlterNet.Org)

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Spam-and-scam artists attacking Craigslist computer/electronic classifieds for Chinese websites


“Barton understood the common denominator in people –  that most people can be appealed to at their basic core:  Greed.” (MSNBC American Greed)

A chintzy internet scam with apparent ties to the Chinese mainland seems to be metastasizing throughout the web while attacking Craigslist world-wide with bot generated spam. But in the wider scheme of things, Craigslist doesn’t seem to be the only target. Reports from the web indicate that the racket runs the whole gamut from computers to colon cleansing concoctions. Backed by flashy-but-trashy looking websites, and the promise of electronics and designer doodads for the price of a song, the scam is spawning new websites,  even as old ones get shut down or compromised by internet watchdogs.

Craigslist HQ Logo

Craigslist.Org H.Q. in San Francisco, CA: The free ads upstart that has become carrion for internet spam-and-scam vultures. The irony of this is that these vultures would have nothing to feed on if Craigslist had no wherewithal to restrain them and thereby sustain itself and the vibrant marketplace it has engendered.

The Ultimate Perplex: Despite what one would consider common sense on top of prominent warnings by Craigslist and anti-scam websites, people are still being scammed and ripped off with promises of cheap electronics, shoes, clothes, and accessories. And by cheap we mean goods that are being advertised at 33% of what they would otherwise cost in a legit store.

The trend boggles the mind until one realizes that the scammers are relying on the greed, ignorance and the relative naivety of internet newbies  to provide them with a fresh “meat”. And they increase their chances by spawning more websites and spamming everything from Craigslist classifieds to its community forums. This  trend represents a subversion of internet-driven entrepreunerialism (characterized by low overheads) and Chris Anderson’s long tail economics.

Cyberaxis first became aware of the growing problem in early February of 2009 when evidence of spam-and-scam infiltration became highly visible on the computers and electronic classifieds of the New York and San Francisco webpages of Craigslist. There has since been evidence of an ebb and flow to the infiltration with Craigslist and the spammers deploying measures and counter-measures  with varying degrees of success.

Craigslist is (a bit) like the old Soviet Union. They rule with an iron fist of censorship but they are also slow to respond.  (Kokomo, CL Apple/Mac Forums 11/03/09)

To date, company sources and analysts say spam has just been a nuisance, but  the implications of even moderate success on the part of spammers can have ominous implications for Craigslist.   Check out “Inside Craigslist’s Increasingly Complex Battle Against Spammers” by John Nagle.  Could this be the Capitalist’s revenge by proxy?

The Two-headed Monster – Spamming & Scaming:  Spam is nothing new to Craigslist but there is a difference between spamming and jamming. Spamming debases the Craigslist user experience by filling the classifieds with redundant, useless or non-local ads. And jamming takes it to a whole new level by flooding local classifieds with spam to a point where the locals almost give up on finding local ads because of the need to wade through endless spam crap to get to them.

This should be the first tip-off as to the motives of  spammers currently jamming the  New York computer/electronic classifieds and trying their darndest to infiltrate the flagship San Francisco website.

To get a perspective on things, you really have to think like a local who just wants to buy a used widget from your neighbor Bob or someone across town.  Now given that scenario, are you gonna trust a spammer, two continents removed, just because they are selling a MacBook Pro for the price of a song? Are you gonna trust someone who doesn’t leave you or your neighbor Bob  space to advertise your wares in your own local classifieds? Hold onto the  thought if you haven’t gotten the gist of this yet.

Letter to Cyberaxis from Craigslist user, Jay, 11/06/09

I have just been scammed by these A$$H01E$!! at http://myelecshops.com/ !!

I knew that it was to good to be true before I did it, but I decided to gamble anyway. Well, I lost.  After I sent the required $300 to them, I received an e-mail saying that they had received the maximum amount of money for the year, and  could not accept any more Western Union payments.  So I went to Western Union and they said  they couldn’t  do anything  about it at that point.

I am not complaining because I knew going into this that this was probably too good to be true. Don’t do like I did. Please follow the old advice; “If it seems to be good to be true,  it usually is.”

Jay, Craigslist User, (See other  responses at end this article)

The spammers currently attacking Craigslist have been reported to be scammers,  and with each wave of bot-generated spam, they have become emboldened to the point of rubbing Craigslist’s nose in it.  (And Craigslist, which seemed caught up in its own annus horribilis with the Phillip Markoff/Julissa Brisman cause celebre,  seemed relatively powerless to do anything at the time. We could not blame them. The legal, human and P.R. stakes associated with the  case were just too high to ignore. But we digress.) The scammers involved in the current attack on Craigslist seem to be based in China, the location of scam website servers notwithstanding.  (The actual servers could actually be off-shore or anywhere in the world.) The  waxing-and-waning evidence seems all over the New York computer/electronic classifieds.

The  San Francisco computer/electronic classifieds have not yet succumbed to the onslaught because of the vigilance of the flagging community in San Francisco. But the flaggers will,  sooner or later,  need more than a wish and a prayer from Craigslist before flagger-fatigue sets in. The section intermittently gets cornered, with sporadic breaches  being made, especially at night when the flagging hordes are asleep. There is always the hypothetical chance of the site being over-run (like the New York or Toronto sites at points in the past) which would be the cyber-equivalent of the parasite killing the host.

UPDATE (As of 8/23/09) Whether the recovery/cleaning up of the New York website is the result of new CL filters or more aggressive flagging on the part of New York Craigslisters  is not yet clear. Bottom-line: The problem persists. There is also new evidence as of October 2009, of the Toronto computer classifieds being hit.

The big question: Now if spam-and-scam artists can hit Craigslist at will like this, what is there to stop the anti-Craigslist lobby from hitting it across the board with nonsense postings just to undermine its free ads platform and promote competing schemes? (Read that monetized alternatives.)

Think of the Craigslist user in affected areas. Where do they go right now if they want to browse or post in the computers and or electronics section? Get the point?

Partial list  Craigslist sites that have been hit: (Look for this to change from time to time)

San Francisco Computers and Electronics Classifieds

New York Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Los Angeles Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Chicago Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Atlanta Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Boston Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Toronto Computers Classifieds

You can usually identify the scam ads by the unusually low prices and idiosyncratic or nonsensical location information. The write-ups are usually cut and dried and look like they were copied and pasted from product write-ups from company or manufacturer web pages. They are done in about the same style and layout.

Blanket Warning to Craigslist Users: Do not send money to these spammers-and-scammers. Check out a verbatim post out of Miami Dade Craigslist:

________________________________________________________

south florida craigslist > miami / dade > computers & tech

Avoid scams and fraud by dealing locally! Beware any deal involving Western Union, Moneygram, wire transfer, cashier check, money order, shipping, escrow, or any promise of transaction protection/certification/guarantee . More info
DO NOT WIRE MONEY  TO JIANHUAN GUAN FROM WWW.SERVICE158.COM. IT’S A SCAM (CHINA)

Reply to: sale-ktyrz-1137774825@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?] Date: 2009-04-24, 10:14AM EDT
http://www.service158.com is a scam. I wired hundreds of dollars on purchases from their website they only accept wires so I wired them the money I never heard from them ever again and they never sent my products it was a scam! If you see their posting flag them we have to keep them out of our craigslist community and if anybody by the name of JianHuan Guan asks you to wire money to him/her do not do it this was the person that scammed me. He might had changed the website name because other people have also posted that they’ve been scammed by this same seller. He can change his website name and even his fake American name he use as a representative JianHuan Guan calls himself Chris but his real name cannot be changed because wires require you use a government ID to prove your identity in order to claim money wired to him and his real name is JianHuan Guan! Do not wire a penny to him he’s a scammer with a professional website that doesn’t send what you purchased from him.

  • Location: CHINA
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 1137774825          Copyright © 2009 craigslist, inc.

_____________________________________________________

Craigslist Spam and Scam List: Please do not buy from or interact with these scammers! The contact information of these apparent spam-and-scam websites is maintained here as cautionary registry. Please do your own research via Google and other search engines to reach your own conclusions.

The New Hide & Seek Trick: While most will put out their contact information right inside the ad, a few have started withholding that information in the hope that you will reply to their baited ads with your true e-mail address. Some newer websites are posting without phone numbers or physical addresses or what passes for them.

Notice how they use the same chintzy template. Someone who is really familiar with China should do some basic research into the addresses presented on this list and do a corresponding write-up. Some, if not all, are probably fake or made up, but it would be interesting to find out from someone who is familiar with the lay of the land.

Please have updated security and anti-malware software before clicking on these websites, if at all. (You can get free versions of AVG or Avira Antivir from the web as part of your security net.) Some of the spam-and-scam websites on Craigslist have have been reported by Google as attack websites – which is really  great public service. See the Google advisory on Safe Browsing towards the end of this post. And FYI, you can read more about malware and virus disseminating websites at stopbadware.org and related site you can find via Google.

Please Note:  Most of these websites may be now be defunct as the result of being jammed or closed down by official or unofficial action.

1. http://www.rich-deal.com (Probably defunct)
MSN:r.ichdeal@hotmail.com”>r.ichdeal@hotmail.com
Email:r.ichdeal@yahoo.com”>r.ichdeal@yahoo.com
Address: No. 88 East of Quinghua’s Rd
Haidian District, Beijing, China.
Tel: 0086-010-83270641

2. http://www.service158.com/ (Probably defunct)
MSN: service.158@hotmail.com
Mail: servce188@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-83250647
Address: 2307 Yuanyangshiji, Haidian District.
Beijing, China.
Tel: 0086-010-83250647

3.  http://bargaineb.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: No. 108 YuanYangKeji Haidian District
Beijing, China.
MSN: bargaineb@hotmail.com
Mail: bargaineb@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-86199634

4.  http://ebchain.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: No. 108 YuanYangKeji Haidian District,
Beijing, China.
MSN: ebchain@hotmail.com
Mail: e.bchain@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-83270634

5.  http://iseller168.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: Room 2018, SongGang Mansion,
Bao An District Guangdon 518105, China.
MSN: iseller1688@hotmail.com
Email: iseller1688@hotmail.com
Tel: 0086-010-86263601

6.  http://captin-b2b.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: No. 2307 Yuanyangshiji Haidian District,
Beijing,  China.
MSN: captin-b2b@hotmail.com
E-mail: c.aptinb2b@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-81863897

7.  http://olx118.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: Room 2013, Zhongguancun Mansion,
Hai Dian District Beijing 100088, China
MSN: olx118@hotmail.com
Email: olx118@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-86263601

8.  http://export-sell.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: No 2307 Yuanyangshiji Haidian District,
Beijing, China.
MSN: export-sell@hotmail.com
E-mail: e.xportsell@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-81898105

9. http://www.tutvw.com/ (Probably defunct)
MSN: tutvw@hotmail.com
Email: tu.tv_w@yahoo.com
Address: No. 118 Dongshong Street,
East City Region, Beijing, China.
Tel: 0086-010-81155361
Tel: 0086-010-86360794

10. http://www.wto198.com/
MSN: wto-198@hotmail.com
Address: No 2 Donghuan Road, Tai Hu Town,
TongZhou, Beijing, China
Tel: 0086-0377-66978060
Tel: 0086-010-89869000
Address: No 24 198 Lane, Silk Factory Road,
Nanyang City, Henan Province, Beijing, China.

11. http://www.ebay188.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: Room 2018, SongGang Masion, Bao An District,
Guangdon 518105, China.
MSN: e.bay188.com
Email: e.bay188@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-86263601

12. Webpage: http://www.hi8888.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: Room 2018,  SongGang Mansion,
Bao An District, Guangdong 518105, China
E-mail/MSN: hi88.88@hotmail.com
MSN: laptops.8@hotmail.com or electronics8@hotmail.com
Tel: 0086-010-86263601

13.www.stores-seller.com (Probably defunct)
http://www.stores-seller.com/
MSN: stores.seller@hotmail.com
E-mail: s.toresseller@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-85925754
Address: No. 108 YuanYangKeJi,
Haidian District, Beijing China.

14. www.fair-cheap.com (Probably defunct)
http://www.fair-cheap.com/productinfo.asp?id=5956
MSN: faircheap@hotmail.com
E-mail: faircheap@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-85925784
Address: No. 108 YuanYangkeji
Haidian District, Beijing, China

15.www.store-hot.com (Probably defunct)
http://www.store-hot.com/
MSN: store.hot@hotmail.com
E-mail:s.torehot@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-859265
Address: No 10 Huayuandonglu,
Haidian District, Beijing, China.

16. www.well-deals.com (Probably defunct)
http://www.well-deals.com/
MSN: welldeals@hotmail.com
E-mail: welldeals@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-85925765
Address: No 118 Dongzhong St.
East City Region, Beijing, China.

17.  http://www.yebyshop.com/ (Probably defunct)
Address: No. 108 YuanYankeji
Haidian District, Beijing, China
Tel: 0086-010-85925754
MSN: yebyshop@hotmail.com
E-mail: yebyshop@yahoo.com

18.  www.etcvictor.com (Apparently defunct)
MSN: etcvictor@hotmail.com
Mail: etc victor@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-85925797

19. www.fair118.com (Apparently defunct)
MSN: fair118@hotmail.com
E-mail: fair_118@yahoo.com
20.  www.buy-2009.com
MSN: buy-2009@msn.com
Email: buy2009@188.com
Address: Room 2013 Zhongguancun Mansion,
Hai Dian District, BeiJing 100088, China

21.www.latest-sell.com (Probably defunct)
MSN: latest-sell@hotmail.com
Email: latest.sell@yahoo.com
Address: Room 2013, Zhongguancun Mansion,
Hai Dian District, BeiJing 100088, China

22. http://www.ripe-deal.com/ (Probably defunct)
MSN: ripedeal@hotmail.com
MAIL: ripedeal@yahoo.com
TEL: 0086-010-85926554
Address: No. 88 East of Qinghua’s Road,
Haidian District, Beijing, China

23. http://www.sage-buy.com (This  has been reported as an attack website.)
MSN: sagebuyl@hotmail.com
MAIL: ripedeal@yahoo.com
TEL: 0086-010-89887994

Newer Websites

24. http://toptog.com/company.asp?id=5
Business Manager: Amy Chen
Business MSN: toptog2008@hotmail.com
E-mail: toptog2008@gmail.com
Notice the lack of purported brick-and-mortar address or phone number. This is a new twist.

File this non-electronic website one under “highly suspect” for not having a physical address and a phone number (verified or otherwise) and relentlessly spamming Craigslist forums  on top of  steering prospective “customers” towards questionable payment schemes without a verified brick and mortar location or verified professional association. the same shady payment schemes.  This website is listed as a spammer at blacklisted.spambag.org. Their supposed “sales people” offer extra discounts if you buy lots of stuff and  send your money via Western Union . Automatic red flag right there!

They do take credit cards even though they try and steer new customers towards Paypal (Another red flag). Their credit card information window asks you to give  out all your information, which can lead to an outright rip-off or identity theft when you are dealing with a company that does not have a verified physical address, phone number or professional affiliation. You are basically sending your vital credit information to a nameless, faceless company, thousands and thousands of miles removed from home.

25. http://www.35usd.com/index.asp
Company:      TANGCHAO Trading Co. Ltd
ADD: FUZHOU ,FUJIAN,CHINA
MSN :     love35usd@hotmail.com
Email:  love35usd@gmail.com
(Please note that this website has the same model and scheme as http://www.toptog.com)

Here is their payment instruction for 35usd.com quoted verbatim, typos and all:

In order to protect our customer’s interest and avoice scame, we  accept paypal as payment. If you want pay by Western Union,pls contact our live chat  to get our payment info,then you need to do:
1. Find a local client of Western Union. You can visit http://www.westernunion.com , on which you will know how to do and where your local agent of western union.
2. Fill our information of Western Union in a Tabel and send the money.
3. After you send the money,you will be given a receipt,in which you will see the MTCN (Money Transfer Control No.). Please tell me the MTCN.That will be OK.

26.  http://www.waredeal.com/
Address: No 10 Huayuandonglu Haidian District,
Beijing, China,
Tel: 0086-010-89887994
MSN: waredeal@hotmail.com
E-mail: ware_deal@yahoo.com

27. 27. http://www.mutualshops.com/
Address: No. 108 YuanYangKeji, Haidian District,
Beijing, China
MSN: mutualshops@hotmail.com
E-mail: mutualshops@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-85926585

28. http://www.deal-bar.com/
Address: No. 3 Dongzhimen South St.
Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
MSN: deal-bar@hotmail.com
E-mail: dealbar1888@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-85926578

29.   http://www.tops-bargain.com/
Address: No 10 Huayuandonglu Haidian District,
Beijing, China, Tel: 0086-010-85925797
MSN: topsbargain@hotmail.com
E-mail: topsbargain@yahoo.com

30.  http://www.eshoppingsky.com
MSN: eshoppingsky@hotmail.com
MAIL: eshoppingsky@yahoo.com
TEL: 0086-010-85925764
NOTE: There is no physical address given (for what its worth).

31.  www.happyuse.com (Probably defunct)
MSN: happyuse6@hotmail.com
E-MAIL: happyuse6@yahoo.com
Tel: 0086-010-86263601

32.  www.elecstrading.com
MSN: electstrading@hotmail.com
E-MAIL: elecstrading@yahoo.com

33. http://richshoping.com/

MSN: richshoping@hotmail.com

E-mail: richshping@yahoo.com

Tel: 0086-010-81818073

Address: No 13, HuaYuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing, China

33.    http://goalprofit.com/

Address: No. 6 Chaowai Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

Tel: 0086-010-89183742

E-mail:  goalprofit@yahoo.com

MSN: goalprofit@hotmail.com

34.  http://choicestbuy.com/

Address: No 3A Dongzhimen South Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China

Tel: 0086-010-89155346

MSN: choicestbuy@hotmail.com

E-mail: choicesbuy@yahoo.com

35.  http://firm-deals.com/

Tel: 0086-010-86177041

MSN: firmdeals@hotmail.com

E-mail: firmdeals@yahoo.com

36.   http://vividsshop.com/

Mail: vividsshop@yahoo.com

MSN: vividsshop@hotmail.com

Tel: 0086-010-86350394

Address: No 36 North Third Ring Road East, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China.


The names of these fraudulent websites may change but their basic modus operandi remains the same. They are virtual copies of each other (Same or similar software & interface). We wouldn’t be surprised if they are put up by the same individual or group of individuals. Look for new ones to crop up as older ones get outed, busted or closed down.

Red flags & some useful pointers for investigating these scam websites:

1. Check  prices of  goods being advertised. If they are too good to be true, they probably are.  Remember behind every bait-and-switch scam is a naked hook. The real catch they are angling for is your money.

2. Check the Whois database for the names, places and contact information associated with the company and or website. What e-mails are associated with the website? Are they free e-mail accounts from Yahoo or Hotmail?(Red flag right there. Reputable companies tend to have company e-mail tied into company websites and domains. Fly-by-night scamsters tend to rely on free e-mails which they can dispose of on the fly.)

3. Check the period of registration in the Whois database. Is it a long-term registration or simply a one year registration? (Red flag. Fly by night scamsters opt for shorter registrations to allow them to ditch any website that gets outed.)

4. Check the preferred method of payment for goods. Requests to wire money or use Western Union made out to an individual as opposed to a company should be an instant red flag. Craigslist clearly warns people against the Western Union moneygram thing.

5. Check Google for other reports and reviews about the company, including what Google has archived in cache form. If the collective reports are negative, hold onto your money as onto Jesus. 🙂

6. Google “Chinese scams” and read up on the reports of different kinds of scams being perpetrated. It may be  a cliche, but yes, knowledge is power.

While at it, here are more tips for verifying the authenticity of a company in China (even though language may be  something of a limiting factor):

http://resources.alibaba.com/topic/17530/Tips_for_you_to_verify_Chinese_companies_.htm

7.  Check the status of the website your are researching on sites like www.sitetruth.com.

8. Finally, any company that is unscrupulous enough to spam Craigslist the way these Chinese websites have spammed Craigslist is probably not gonna be scrupulous about not screwing  you out of your money. Their eggregious intrusions speak volumes about their ethics and concerns for the locals beyond their shores.

The Wider World of Spam and Scam-ology: The Postini map below shows that  scam’s are a world wide phenomenon with continental and regional clusters with common characteristics. They  spread quickly within regional underworlds. The Chinese model targets people in ways that are  somewhat different from the Nigerian and European scams. The use of a crude but flashy website with unbelievably low prices, represents a sub-type that has metastasized quickly among operatives on or off the mainland. (Where mutual greed is involved, language and or cultural barriers are rarely a deterrent. European and Nigerian scammers have proved that beyond a shadow of doubt.)

The spam-and-scam list on this blog is thus  a minuscule tip of the iceberg. For more information on the wider world of  Chinese scammers please check out these two websites:

1. “The bigger list of Chinese Scams”:

http://www.firetrust.com/en/blog/chris/the-bigger-list-of-chinese-scams

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for an exhaustive list of scam websites that have been included for one reason or another. The criteria are mentioned in the article. This list is very helpful as a starting point of your own research. Caveat: The  “Firetrust.Com” webpate is  linked to a commercial product called “Sitehound”  which is  an anti-scamming toolbar. It comes in two versions: The basic version which is free and the enhanced version which  is being sold for $29.95.  We are not necessarily endorsing this product. You can read up on it on Google and make up your own mind as to  whether it is a valuable investment to you.

2. Fraud Watchers website:

http://www.fraudwatchers.org/

3.  Scam-checker website

http://scamchecker.net/website-scam-checklist.html

4.  Have security software on your computer that will detect attack  sites that may have malicious ware downloaded onto your computer without your knowledge. One such site that was blocked by Google for suspicious activity in September of 2009 was  sage-buy.com.

Please Note: We will update this list as new websites and contact information becomes available. Meanwhile, you can read the other  Cyberaxis article on the spam-and-scam problem here.

World spam activity map. Source: Postini Inc.

World spam activity map. Source: Postini Inc.

copyright© 2009 cyberaxis.wordpress.com

Appendices:

Feds seize 150 websites in counterfeit crackdown (Alicia Caldwell, Associated Press – USA Today, November 28, 2011)

 

China Scams (Hobotraveler.Com) Reported examples of people scammed.

How to check a Chinese scam site

Craigslist computer and electronic classifieds in New York San Francisco under bot spam attacks (Cyberaxis)

Beware of Craigslist Scams: CBS Video

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4858957n

Chinese Scammers Launch New Offensive by Lain Thompson

Inside Craigslist’s Increasingly Complicated Battle Against Spammers

Internet Crime Complaint Center

My mental migration to Apple is almost complete …


I have loaded up on the supplies I need to make the transition to the land that Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne built; a couple of PC laptops with Windows XP to tide me over to the next generation of  Macbooks; the much anticipated2009  laptop and desktop incarnations with Snow Leopard OSX. My two aging PC desktops will not be replaced by anything that runs Microsoft on it. Been there. Done that.

A single block of aluminum.

A single block of aluminum.

Windows Vista was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I would not buy any machine that had Windows Vista on it. I would not cross that craggly line. Remember the eons it took to get Windows XP stable with daily doses of updates and hot fixes by IV. Been there. Done that.

Sans the monopolies and heavy-handed ways, Microsoft is the high tech equivalent of the domestic auto industry. Its penchant for conducting  software research and development on the backs of hapless customers is the epitome of cynicism that should be actionable. I will not be a part of that anymore.

I have consulted my crystal ball. The stars are lining up for Apple. Says John Martellaro of ZDNET:

“Recent presentations from  Microsoft strategists have focused on the Surface input technology and software as a service (SaS). The problem is that neither of these pie-in-the-sky approaches remotely address the needs of users.

Microsoft’s new approach vaguely reminiscent of the days when Mark Andreessen said that Netscape is the OS, no need for Windows. Microsoft may now believe that after all.

“Apple’s strategy, in contrast, recognizes that users not only view content but create it. The faster the desktop client experience is in doing that, the better the overall experience for the user. In fact, Apple’s vision of the desktop as an elegant digital hub has never wavered.” John Martellaro, ZDNET

The next two years  are  gonna represent a watershed epoch in the  Microsoft versus Apple war.  Mark my words.

copyright© 2009 cyberaxis.wordpress.com

Craigslist computer and electronic classifieds in New York and San Francisco under spam-and-scam attacks!


In the face of unrelenting  spam-and-scam attacks of the computer/electronic classifieds in super metro areas like  New York and  San Francisco, what does Craigslist have up its sleeve to combat these virulent onslaughts?

We here at  Cyberaxis first broached this story after we noticed an unrelenting campaign of spam flooding the New York and San Francisco classifieds from China.  The spammers were posting with impunity bordering on contempt. (We first noticed this around February of 2009, but  it is highly probable that they started much earlier. Craigslist has not responded to our queries.)  The spammers’ prodigious output was swamping the computers and electronics classifieds and affecting Craigslist users’ ability to find local items for sale. If nothing happens in the next couple of months the San Francisco computers and electronics classifieds section might just go down like the New York one – the micro-equivalent of the parasite killing the host. (See the “Update” appendix at the end of this post.)

The big question: Now if spam-and-scam artists can hit Craigslist at will like this, what is there to stop Craigslist haters  (or their operatives) from hitting it across the board with nonsense postings just to undermine its free ads platform as a means of promoting their own schemes? Think of the Craigslist user in San Francisco, Los  Angeles, New York, Chicago and Atlanta. Where do they go right now if they want to browse or post in the computers and or electronics section? Get the point?

Updated list of  other U.S.  Craigslist Sites that are increasingly being hit: (As of 05/12/09)

San Francisco Computers and Electronics Classifieds

New York Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Los Angeles Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Chicago Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Atlanta Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Boston Computers and Electronics Classifieds

Major Warning to Craigslist Users: Now it turns out that this spam is most probably linked to an unsophisticated but effective wire scam, if a post out of the Miami Dade  ads computers & tech section is anything to go by.

Please see a copy of the post and vital anti-scam  information here:

cyberaxis.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/spam-and-scam-artists-attacking-craigslist-computerelectronic-classifieds-for-chinese-websites/

Do people who send money to unknown businesses when the conspicuous warning on Craigslist is clearly against that deserve to be scammed? The answer is yes with a qualified no. With very minimal exceptions, people should not be sending their hard earned money to strangers even on a websites  as well known as eBay.

The Chinese spammers on Craigslist  have been using location blurbs like “Come on baby ….. Shengcunyishangshenghuoyixia” or “Beijing, Beijing” (a sardonic play on New York, N.Y.) in an apparent attempt  to  taunt  Craigslist flaggers and moderators.  Spam is nothing new to Craigslist, but this recent onslaught seems to be unrelenting in a way that raises a lot of questions.

Could these barrages be  probes by tech emboldened bandits to test the integrity of Craigslist’s anti-spam  system? Could they be trying to see how the automated  and human assisted controls (flagging and moderation) can withstand unrelenting attacks. Could Los Angeles, Dallas, and Washington D.C.  be next? The current attacks seem to go beyond simple attempts to con people  out of their money. The brazenness seems to speak to a certain desire to prove something to Craigslist.

Craigslist Honchos: Craig Newmark and Jim Buckmaster outside their humble headquarters - What effective strategy do they have to deal with virulent spam?

Partners in "crime" of free advertising for the people: Craigslist legend, Craig Newmark (left) and C.E.O. honcho Jim Buckmaster outside their humble San Francisco headquarters. Newmark's paradigm shattering ads coupled with user generated content hobbled newspaper advertising from coast to coast.

The Craigslist’s flagging system often seems overwhelmed and while the IT department has quite a few tools in its toolbox, like lowering the flagging threshold,  it doesn’t seem to be commensurately effective against the spam in question.  The ace up the attackers’ sleeve  seems  to be the  newer software  designed to game or bypass Craigslist controls. Craigslist’s ultimate threat of blocking IP addresses of spammers and or hackers doesn’t seem to even come close to fazing these guys.

Charging for posts in computers, as some have suggested  would have the salutary effect it has had in real estate, employment and more recently the erotic section, but as a more global strategy,  it would threaten the very attribute that has distinguished Craigslist from its competitors, namely, free advertising.

The influx of spam from  off-shore operatives  also threatens the local focus of Craigslist websites which are really  independent location-based sites linked by a sub-domain. The mantra to “deal locally with folks you can meet in person” has, for the most part, served Craigslist well and minimized the scams that have wracked eBay over the years.

The law of unintended consequences: Even before the closure of the much maligned Erotic Services, there had been a glaring irony in all of this. In November of 2008, Craigslist had caved into pressure from law enforcement and associated groups by instituting a screening process which required credit card and telephone number verification, not to mention the then new $5 per post charge. The concession was meant to help police in their investigation of illegal activities like the exploitation of minors.

However the unintended effect of this that it immunized the Erotic Services section from eggregious spam while the more up-and-up electronic and computer classifieds were left to fend for themselves.   None of the  religious-cum-law-and-order types  had seen this coming.

Evolution of the Beast: The technology to defeat Craigslist’s controls have  been evolving faster than Craigslist’s  ability to deal with it.  But the problem goes beyond Craigslist, which is a bit downstream when compared with web and  e-mail giants like Yahoo, Google and MSN and Hotmail. The collapse of CAPTCHA sometime early in 2008  did not bode well even  for downstream  operations like Craigslist which relies on CAPTCHA derived controls to distinguish human posters from automated or bot posters. Be that as it may, conspiracy theorists have already started speculating about who may be behind the more recent onslaught against Craigslist, which certainly does not have a shortage of enemies, within and without, if you get my drift.

The Tech World article by Steven J. Nichols-Vaughn (Computerworld U.S. ) zeroes in on this problem:

“It’s not just free email sites that can be made to suffer, though.

John Nagle, founder of SiteTruth, a site that tries to identify bogus businesses and their websites, wrote in late May on Techdirt that while spam on the popular online classified ad service Craigslist “has been a minor nuisance for years … this year, the spammers started winning and are taking over.”

Craigslist tried “to stop spamming by checking for duplicate submissions,” Nagle explained. “They check for excessive posts from a single IP address. They require users to register with a valid email address. They added a CAPTCHA to stop automated posting tools. And users can flag postings they recognise as spam.”

According to Nagle, waxing sarcastic, “Several commercial products are now available to overcome those little obstacles to bulk posting. A tool called CL Auto Posting Tool is one such product. It not only posts to Craigslist automatically, it has built-in strategies to overcome each Craigslist anti-spam mechanism.”

It’s not the only one. There are, he added, “other desktop software products [such as] AdBomber and Ad Master. For spammers preferring a service-oriented approach, there’s ItsYourPost.” The result? “The defenses of Craigslist have been overrun. Some categories on Craigslist have become over 90 percent spam. The personals sections were the first to go, then the services categories, and more recently, the job postings.”

Of course, you don’t have to pay anything. There are now free CAPTCHA crackers available online.

Craigslist is fighting back. The organisation is now using phone verification for some ads. Crackers, in return, are working on a way to break Craigslist’s phone defences. With combat costs mounting, it’s hard to see how Craigslist, which has always been a free service, can continue to survive with its no-visible-means-of-revenue model.

It’s not, as the Craigslist situation shows, that malicious email is the only problem coming from broken CAPTCHA security. Paul Wood, senior analyst at MessageLabs, a UK-based e-mail security company, says, “MessageLabs have already begun to see examples of spammers exploiting other techniques once they have bypassed the CAPTCHA of Google and Hotmail – for example, using Google Docs to create spam content and including the link in the spam email messages, evading traditional antispam techniques that rely on identifying known spam domains in URL.”

Steven J. Nichols-Vaughn Tech World article (Computerworld U.S.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Update as of 4/25/09 (See spam-and-scam alert in main post):

The San Francisco “Computers and Tech” page seems to be  much more aggressive at beating back the waves of spam that are swamping its New York counterpart, especially at night. And the probable explanation for this has more to do with hyperactive user flagging than in-built spam controls (which are for the most part the same across all Craigslist  sites with the possible exception of flagging thresholds.)

SF Bay Area Craigslist is the local village market in the  Bay Area ever since its  its inception in 1995. Its presence is as built into the cityscape as the Golden Gate Bridge and the waterways that flow into its meandering bay. The locals are as protective of Craiglist as yokels are of the local village market.

The SF Bay Area Craigslist also happens to be the busiest  Craigslist websites on the planet. Period. “Touching” this website (figuratively speaking of course)  is like touching the edge of a fast-spinning mill wheel. This applies as much to legitimate users as to  spammers who try to swamp its classifieds.  It is interesting to marvel at this phenomenon, but Craigslist  clearly needs to come up with a more solid solution to the problem of spam. Flagger-fatigue can easily set in and leave the San Francisco website looking like New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.

copyright© 2009 cyberaxis.wordpress.com

World spam activity map. Source: Postini Inc.

World spam activity map. Source: Postini Inc.


Appendices(Related Reading):

Beware of Craigslist Scams: CBS Video

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4858957n

Chinese Scammers Launch New Offensive by Lain Thompson

Inside Craigslist’s Increasingly Complicated Battle Against Spammers

The New Microsoft PC Ads: As fake as Lauren’s red hair


“Microsoft needs to reset itself to compete in the 21st Century, which promises to be the most painful thing it has done in its decades-long existence.” Matt Asay, CNET

What boggles the collective mind more than anything else is why Microsoft never gets it right  when its corporate rump is on the line as in the internecine ad wars between it and Apple.  The more mystical among the Apple faithful might put it down to some kind of Cosmic Karma; an idea which has  as  good a chance as any  of taking root absent some plausible explanation as to why Microsoft shoots itself in the foot each and every time it squares off against the Cupertino-based challenger.

Let’s take the most recent example as a case in point: Microsoft’s “I’m a PC ad”  starring an actress named Lauren De Long,  masquerading as a hapless customer.

Microsoft Lauren Delong: Foxy and blue jeans hot. And she ain't cool enough for a Mac?

Hot Chickadee: Lauren De Long heating up (and warping) the rails in this form-fitting top and blue jeans. This appears to be a portfolio shot taken some time before the whimsical redhead morphed into Microsoft Lauren - fried frizzly hair and all.

The question of whether Lauren De Long has become the “Joe the plumber” of the ad wars between Microsoft and Apple is rhetorical at this point.  More than an unwitting dupe, Lauren is a giggly accomplice  in a ruse by a giant whose marketing ineptitude  is only matched by its tech foibles. Lauren wins free publicity.  Microsoft loses more credibility …. again.  Tell me something new. Yawn.

Ad Story Line: Lauren is a hapless customer  in search of  a 17 inch laptop below $1000 (an apparent dig at the 17 inch Macbook unibody which, at the time of the ad, was selling in excess of $2,500. The ad also refers to a $2000 Macbook Pro, versions of which have since been lowered to under $2000, thereby leading to threats of an Apple lawsuit which led Microsoft to cut out the reference to price in subsequent ads. What a war! What a war!)

Lauren suggests that she is going into an Apple Store, and appears to come out with nothing before finding a $699 HP laptop in a Best Buys-look-alike store. (Critics point out that there is no evidence that she actually went into that store which she wrongly identifies as a Mac store.)

When the  Lauren ads first hit the airwaves there was a collective gasp and stir,  similar to when Sarah Palin  first hit the national stage in the 2008 presidential election. Perhaps Microsoft had gotten it right this time people thought! But the problem of the new ad soon became apparent: The sales pitch was not as finely tuned as to compare  apples with Apples and the customer  in the ad was as fake as a vaudevillian in classic black face.  Lauren won’t even tell the world how well she fared with  her $699 laptop,  thanks to a non-disclosure agreement she signed with Microsoft and or the advertiser.  Oi Vei!

The new campaign by Crispin Porter + Bogusky (Interesting name, that Mr. Bogusky) is a curious echo of the Chunky Charlie MS Butterfly campaign by McCann Erickson Worldwide. After making crappy, buggy software, does Microsoft  look for the worst ad agencies to plug its crappy softwares? Don’t answer that.

The problems with the Microsoft Lauren campaign are so myriad we will not count all the ways:

1.  Do not lie to people. If you are gonna use randomly chosen customers off of Craigslist, make  sure you do just that. Nothing complicated here. That, in and of itself, would have eliminated  Lauren, at least by dint of  the integrity.  Did we say integrity?

2.  If you want to project  genuineness, pick a natural redhead with a clean coif. Lauren De Long looked like she had been attacked by the a feral cat before her dye job had had a chance to be dried.

3.  Competing on price and price alone is the equivalent of (Microsoft and its PC cohorts) throwing in the towel on the issue of quality, style, value and ease of use in its fight with Apple.  Think the computer equivalent of the domestic vs foreign autos debate. Just as in the latter, there is a reason why Macs sell and hold their value better than PCs.

4.  Microsoft insults people’s intelligence with the Lauren argument. There are more factors (that go into buying a laptop than mere price. These include Microsoft’s product history. Think Microsoft’s  most recent  egg, the Vista operating system. Microsoft should be dealing with that instead of churning out terminally lame ads.

3. The Lauren ad  is all over the place with no  zinger of the order of “Where is the beef?”. By the time we get to the PC store scene, the ad is beginning to feel like a mini infomercial.

5. Lauren’s line, “I guess I am not cool enough for a Mac” is a contrived piece of  crap calculated to  wring the last dollop of mawkishness out of the gonzo script.

6. As the Geek Whisperer astutely points out, the ad inadvertently degrades the value of a PC by insinuating that “PCs are the computer you buy when times are rough… like now. But in the future the economy won’t be in the dumps (hopefully sooner than later).” Point made and case closed.

The Apple Insider’s take on this is interesting, if not instructive. Read this and be your own judge as to who is feeding you cant. You can read the entire article with vids, pics and graphs on the Apple Insider here:

“Shopping for hardware: The new ads don’t go into details on hardware purchases; they simply make the case that PC laptops can be found for cheaper, playing up tight funds in the tough economy. Best Buy actually does sell the DV7-1245DX, an HP notebook with 17″ screen, but it lacks fast wireless 902.11n, fast Gigabit Ethernet, digital audio inputs and outputs, weighs 7.75 pounds, and only features the screen resolution of Apple’s 15″ notebooks: 1440 by 900. Technically, it is a 17″ notebook in terms of size, but it doesn’t have the 17″ resolution of Apple’s MacBook Pro, which is 1920 by 1200.

One HP buyer pointed out that this model series “has the worst screen I have ever seen in my life. It’s the 1440×900 screen and the viewing angles are so poor that even when sitting directly eye level with the screen it is totally washed out. If I go a little bit off-axis the screen results in a negative image. I was using the default settings. Unfortunately I didn’t read reviews before i purchased.”

Shopping for software: More importantly however, the HP notebook runs Windows Vista, rated by ChangeWave as having the lowest operating system satisfaction rating in rankings that were led by Mac OS X Leopard and also included Linux and Windows XP. Many PC makers continue to add a “Windows XP downgrade” as a feature on their new PCs.

This makes it particularly interesting that Microsoft would advertise its product by citing the price of the hardware it runs on, rather than calling attention to any of the features in its own product. It’s not that Microsoft hasn’t tried. Vista’s first “Wow” campaign portrayed customers in a state of pleasant shock when using it.

Shopping for an ad campaign: After those ads collapsed in an avalanche of bad press complaining about arbitrary changes that did not improve anything and software and hardware compatibility problems, Microsoft rolled out the Mojave Experiment, which showed users a “new OS” that was really just a repackaged version of Vista. Those ads attempted to claim that Vista’s bad reputation was all due to customers not giving the system a fair shake, but the ads sidestepped the real problems users were experiencing by not allowing participants to run Vista on their own PC or with their existing software and peripherals.

Microsoft then announced a $300 million campaign to revive the Windows brand by associating it with skits featuring Gates and Seinfeld which promised to “tell the story of Windows.” Instead, the ads were canceled mid-production after being poorly received.

Following that, the company released a “Windows vs Walls” campaign reminiscent of Apple’s Think Different commercials, and then a series of “I’m a PC” ads that tried to defuse Apple’s Get a Mac spots by claiming that generic PCs were empowered to do anything, except of course, producing the ads themselves, as it was embarrassingly revealed that those ads were actually created using Macs.

Promoting cheap: Talking about price during a recession where the global PC market is actually shrinking for the first time ever is probably Microsoft’s best bet in trying to stem the tide of switchers buying Macs. However, the company has to be careful because it’s also competing against free software such as Ubuntu Linux, which also runs on generic PCs. In fact, those PCs get cheaper if they’re sold without Microsoft’s Windows, something the company has worked hard to prevent from happening. “

(Please Note: You can read the entire article with vids, pics and graphs on the Apple Insider here.)

Right next to reinventing itself from the guts, the Microsoft needs to sever its marketing and advertising arm along with crappy ad agencies  like McCann Erickson Worldwide,  and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. (For insightful analyses of Microsoft’s  foibles, articles by Gerry Patterson and Matt Asay under the “Appendices” heading below)

With a $300 million, budget, Microsoft  could have done way better. The CNN Money/ Fortune assumption that this lame campaign has put Apple on the defensive is terminally silly.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Post Scriptum. To the bloggers who carp that these ad/PR campaigns are skewered, remember what’s good for the goose is even be better for the gander.

The Microsoft/PC  “bashing” ads, if you wanna call them that, have more than a ring of truth to them.  They are light-heartedly  funny, on top of being sharp, terse and extremely well produced. Watch them here and compare them with the droll Lauren clip.  And if that is not enough, go back to the equally droll and mind-numbingly abstruse   MS Butterfly campaign.

copyright© 2009 cyberaxis.wordpress.com

Appendices:

Microsoft to attack Mac pricing in new series of TV ad by Prince McLean (Apple Insider, March 26, 2009)

The Future Looks Bright for Microsoft? (Gerry Patterson, PGTS Journal)

Economy’s “fundamental reset” hurts Microsoft’s earnings and future (Matt Asay, CNET)

Apple and the culture of seduction


The Apple 20" Cinema Display: Brushed aluminum never looked so good.

The Apple 20″ Cinema Display: Brushed aluminum never looked so good.

Apple’s choice of “the bitten apple” as its company logo seems to have been prescient in the extreme. Why? Because like the apple of Edenic lore,  Apple the company has been the most powerful purveyor of conspicuous consumption at the intersection human lust and technology.

Plainly stated and in the present tense, the genius of Apple is that it makes products that are  near impossible to resist beyond being functionally superior. The fact that they cost more  just adds to their mystique and cachet of value.  Yes,  Apple gadgets are expensive, but that may just be because they are an uncommon amalgam of functionality, reliability and drop-dead aesthetics.  Think Galileo meets Van Gogh, or something to that effect.

Take the 20″ Cinema Display that I am looking at right now.  I bought this as a monitor to pair up with my  bedroom PC computer and fell head over heels in love.  I am  not alone in this.  Right now I have the Apple flat screen next to a brand new  Gateway HD 1080 flat screen for which I paid the same price as the used Apple monitor.  The contest is not even close. The Gateway monitor, which is not a dog by any stretch of the imagination, is still encumbered by a plasticky-cum-garish patina. Not so the Cinema Display in its studied minimalism and near  flawless sublimity.  I cannot stop staring at the Apple monitor and would work exclusively on it if I had the choice. The feather-touch on/off switch and brightness controls on its right right side stunned me the first time I figured out how they actually worked i.e. with touchscreen mojo. No calloused stubbly fingers need apply here when it comes  to these “precision engineered” 😉  gizmos. It’s little things like that that open a newbie’s eyes to Apple’s technological genius and attention to detail.

apple of seduction - apple's iconoclasic logo

In prospect or retrospect nothing could have been more appropos for Apple’s product as the bitten apple.

I am a PC stiff by default, but can feel myself being pulled towards Apple’s kingdom as if towards the proverbial light, even with its intermittent PR/marketing and business machination problems.

This seduction is something hi-tech hacks have been aware of  beyond the allure of Apple technology, architecture and overall functionality. The attached review of the Apple 30″ Cinema HD Display is a very telling shibboleth of the Apple magic working beyond the liminal. It is there in the Macbook (Unibody) Pro at your nearest Apple store. It is there in the iPod of yore – a minimalistic iteration of a gizmo that had carved out a defined niche well before Apple made its game-changing splash. And yes, it is there in the iconic iPhone, spec warts and all.

The iConic iPhone: An object of desire that also works as a phone. The competition with its clever mods doesn't get it.

iConic & iConoclastic: Apple’s  iPhone: An object of desire that also works. Yeah, kind of like a trophy wife that  can also cook or a boy toy who can also deliver in the bedroom. The competition like Samsung, condemned to perennial imitation, just doesn’t get it.

Leice M3 From Minox

Vintage looks in nouveau skins: The Leica M3 from Minox, all shrunk down to miniaturized voodoo …… like a trophy head.

Enter the iPhone 4  Non-4G With PR Guns Blazing:

Nobody knows how to work the consumer lust bone more than Steven P.  Jobs – his iPhone 4 presentation at the Moscone Center being a case in point. Every word, every image and every reference was calculated to – by imagistic association – create a torrent of longing and desire that bypasses critical faculties like McLuhan’s “subliminal pills” for the mind. Check the lingo for the advert Kool Aid quotient – the words designed to press  buttons in the limbic center of the brain. There is nothing equivocal about them:

For 2010, we are gonna take the biggest leap since the original iPhone. (Applause) So today we are introducing iPhone 4.  Fourth  generation iPhone.  (Applause) Now, this is really hot. (Laughter) There are well over a 100 new features and we don’t have time to cover them all today. So I get to cover eight of them with you.   Eight new features of the iPhone 4.  The first one, an all new design. (Giant image of iPhone corner showing precision engineered edge) Now, stop me if you’ve already seen this. (Extended laughter & applause)

Believe me.  You ain’t seen it. You’ve gotta see this thing in person. It is one of the most beautiful designs you have ever seen. This is beyond a doubt the most precise thing – one of the  one of the most beautiful things we have ever made.  Glass on the front and rear and stainless steel running around. And the precision of which this is made is beyond any consumer product you have ever seen. Its closest kin is like a beautiful old Leica camera. It’s unheard of in consumer products today. Just gorgeous.   And its really thin. This is the new iPhone 4. (Applause)

This was the semanto-morphological template out of which Apple’s entire ad campaign was fashioned. Check out the verbatim copy from Apple’smain website:

Engineered Glass – All the breakthrough technology in iPhone 4 is situated between two gloss panels of aluminosilicate glass – the same type of glass used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains. Chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic, the glass is ultradurable and more scratch resistant than ever. It’s also recyclable.

Stainless Steel Band – Created from our own alloy, then forged to be five times stronger than standard steel, the CNC-machined band is the mounting point for all the components of iPhone 4. The band provides impressive structural rigidity and allows for its incredibly thin, refined design. It also functions as both iPhone 4 antennas.

Leica Camera - Retro Aesthetics Meets Naked Desire

Retro Aesthetics Meets Naked Desire – The point at which exquisite detail meets with austere minimalism: A vintage Leica Camera as Apple’s apple design muse. Now watch the sales of  Leica cameras go up. No kidding here. Copyright – Yukio Miyamoto

Forty Days & Forty Nights:

The nature of this seduction has  been thrown into  sharp relief by the Cupertino  giant’s headline  foibles and curious product cycles; the  iPhone being a good example of how Apple treated early adopters in the shabbiest of ways.  And the lack of candor  surrounding Steve Job’s health took a lot of sheen off the Cupertino giant. Many people were left wondering if stock holders had been royally  shafted. (Check out this New York Times column.) The disclosure, after the fact, of  Steve Jobs’ liver transplant has Warren Buffet more than wondering.

And most recently (by way of a March 2011 update) the curious  launching of the iPad 2, has left many fans and prospective adoptees scratching their heads. How could the most brilliant computer/marketing company botch a product launch like this given what people have come to expect of Apple: annual launching schedules that come and go with the precision of a metronome?

What these foibles have done is to make PC-hacks-by-default  like me pause before jumping head first in into the Kingdom of the Bitten Apple. The road to Steve Job’s castle is  lined with caveat emptor signs  which do not necessarily diminish his, and Apple’s mercurial legacy.  It just makes  fence-sitters like me take note and consider straddling the divide for a little  longer if not forever.  I doubt that I am alone in wanting to  denounce the droll commercialism of Redmond, and come into the kingdom of The Bitten Apple faithful with head bowed and eyes averted. But there is probably something very wrong with this consumerism-as-religion kind of thing. But come to think of it where would religion be without the  possibility of seduction – the desire  to possess and be possessed?

“Apple is like a crack holder on a street full of junkies” Petra, (Only Kent)

“I’m not the only one for whom the iPad appears to be a gateway drug.”  Adam Lashinsky (Forbes)

“You know what’s wrong with this company? The products suck. They’ve got no sex in them.” (Steve Jobs at first come-back-from-exile meeting at Apple Campus as quoted in Bloomberg Game Changers: Steve Jobs)

copyright© 2009 cyberaxis.wordpress.com

Appendix:

How Steve Jobs and Apple Turned Technology into a Religion (L.A. Times Article by Chris Obrien)

Bloomberg Game Changers: Steve Jobs (Bloomberg Documentary, http://www.bloomberg.com)

Apple iPad withdraway: Why I want my tablet back now (Jason Perlow, ZDNet)

Woman gets $900 for spot in iPad 2 line (Chris Matyczczyk, CNET) $900 is more than the price of the iPad 2.

Confessions of a Mac switcher (Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, CNN Money)

How Steve Jobs out-Japanned Japan (Jeff Yang, SF Gate)

Steve Jobs Introduces Original iPhone, MacWorld Conference, 2007 (dotsub.com)

Four things you need to know about Apple by Mike Elgan

iPhone Addictive: Survey Reveals (Dan Hope, Technical News Daily)

MSN’s Butterfly As Chunky Charlie: The Microsoft ad campaign that fizzled for lack of imaginative schizzle


The Microsoft Network  as a whimsical butterfly, must rank as one of the most incongruous marketing campaigns to play itself out on TV. First launched in 2000 as a silent mascot of Microsoft Network, the lepidopteran was brought back in 2004 as a lingual character in a series of ads that were supposed to be endearing and humorous. But all it did was leave a lot of adults scratching their heads and wondering what the point of this droll mascot was all about. If the subliminal message was that the Microsoft was as unimaginative about its ads as it was with its buggy software, then it succeeded immensely.

 MSN Butterfly as Chunk-Charlie took the nectar when it came to campaigns  most likely to fizzle for lack of imaginative schizzle.

MSN Butterfly as Chunk-Charlie took the nectar when it came to campaigns most likely to fizzle for lack of imaginative schizzle. The mascot was animated by different actors, but all to the same effect.

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